Suspense is building up over whether the government has any immediate plans to create the post of chief of defence staff (CDS) or permanent chairman of the chiefs of staff committee, amid the debate swirling around the appointment of the new army chief.
The government on Saturday announced Lieutenant General Bipin Rawat will replace Gen Dalbir Singh as army chief on December 31, abandoning a decades-old tradition of elevating the seniormost officer to the position.
In promoting Rawat, the claims of two officers senior to him — Lieutenant General Praveen Bakshi and Lieutenant General PM Hariz — were ignored.
Had the government gone by seniority, Bakshi would have been the next chief. But government officials said it may be too early to write off Bakshi because the plan to appoint a new four-star general to provide single-point military advice to the political leadership was under serious consideration.
“Who knows, the government could spring another surprise and appoint a CDS in the near term. It could be anyone,” said a defence ministry source.
It also remains to be seen what will be the next move of the superseded generals – they could choose to serve, resign or move court.
Customarily, seniority has been the deciding factor, but the final call rests with the government that has the option of making the selection after examining the dossiers of top eligible generals.
A government source said Rawat was the best suited among the generals to deal with emerging challenges such as a reorganised force structure in the north, continuing militancy in J&K and the insurgency in the northeast.
He said due process was followed and the existing security environment factored in before declaring Rawat as chief-designate.